Japan decided Tuesday to extend its sanctions against North Korea for two years, maintaining pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize and resolve its past abductions of Japanese nationals.

The sanctions approved for extension by the Cabinet before they expire on Saturday impose a total ban on bilateral exports and imports, and forbid the entry into Japan of North Korean-registered ships, as well as vessels that have stopped at a North Korean port.

The two-year extension is designed to prod North Korea to take specific steps toward achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as pledged, as well as resolving the abduction issue, a priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

As the United States continues its dialogue with North Korea over denuclearization, Japan has also made some conciliatory gestures.

Abe has expressed willingness to engage with North Korea through direct talks with leader Kim Jong Un to resolve the abduction issue.

In March, Japan did not sponsor a resolution condemning North Korea's human rights abuses at a U.N. panel for the first time since 2007.

Following missile tests by Pyongyang in 2006, Japan adopted a set of unilateral sanctions, including a ban on imports from North Korea. Tokyo has expanded and extended them several times, in addition to sanctions imposed in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abduction victims and also suspects North Korea's involvement in more disappearances of Japanese citizens. The abduction issue has prevented the normalization of diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang.